By Lindsay Carey
As children are picking out their new backpacks and gathering school supplies for back to school, the teachers are already back preparing for the first day.
Curriculum and lesson plans aside, many of the teachers are trying to find ways to make sure their classroom are a comfortable learning environment for students to get back into the routine of school.
Thalberg School third grade teacher Jen Valentine said that she is trying to decorate her classroom with fun colors and movies for a Hollywood themed classroom.
“I love movies, so I think when kids can identify with something that you love it makes it easier for them to feel at home in the classroom,” said Valentine, who is going into her second year at Thalberg.
Valentine loosely tied them into the organization and structure of her classroom. She calls the reading corner, “the movie theater” to enforce reading as quiet time.
She also said many of the jobs in the classroom go along with the theme, for example the assistant director is the messenger. The teacher said she believes in making routines and procedures fun, like doing a silent conga line down the hallway.
Valentine said she also incorporates what her students did over the summer when school starts, because it gets the students excite and serves as an ice breaker activity.
“Honestly, I’m just coming back in with an excited energy, because I think when you have a good energy the kids feel that it’s palpable and they get excited for school,” said Valentine.
Amanda Surowaniec, one of four kindergarten teachers at Thalberg, said she’s been focused on getting her room set up for an upcoming meet and greet.
“I’m just trying to make the room look friendly and inviting, clean and bright,” said Surowaniec.
This preparation has included organizing files and papers, decorating and putting her student’s names on things around the classroom.
For some kindergarten students, going from daycare to a full day of class can be difficult. Surowaniec said she’s been working on activities and ice breakers for the first two days especially.
The teacher said she rotates activities every 15 to 20 minutes to keep the children engaged and as a result the kids learn fast.
“Last year they grew so much in a short amount of time, in terms of learning to read and do math,” said Surowaniec. “I’m excited to see them grow as individuals and students.”
Anna Ryzak, who teaches fifth grade at Hatton School, said that she’s making sure to organize her space so that everything is easily accessible.
She also said that, in her experience, going over the routines and rules of the classroom usually makes everyone feel more comfortable.
“You need to teach them and you need to model them,” said Ryzak, who will be teaching science, social studies and reading. “That’s part of what makes them feel comfortable in the room, knowing what is expected.”
Fourth grade teachers Barbara Bottiglieri, Scott Herman and Valerie Moriarty, from Kelley School, have been meeting and talking about the best way to start the school year.
The trio has been cleaning, organizing and setting up their classrooms in preparation for the incoming students.
“If we’re more organized and prepared, then they’ll definitely get off to a better start,” said Herman about the transition from summer to school in the fall. “I’m ready to have the best year ever.”
Bottiglieri is new to the fourth grade team at Kelley and said that her fellow teachers are helping her prepare and make sure the fourth grade is consistent.
She said for the first couple days, she’s focused on “getting to know you” activities. Bottiglieri said she participates in the activities as well to make the children feel more comfortable with her.
“You’re trying to get to know them and they’re trying to get to know each other,” she said. “The kids get the first day jitters and so do we. I get nervous too.”